16 Mar, 2011
Hello Midtownians, Raph here with my weekly musings. This week, I want to talk about my experience of the Pax East 2011 convention in Boston, and how awesome geek fandom is overall. Now some of you may wonder what that has to do with comic books. I’ll get to that later, but first, just a quick recounting of events at PAX East.
Crowded Exhibit Floor!
PAX is based around the Penny Arcade webcomic, by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins. The comic generally takes a humorous view of video games, but also touches upon movies and comics as well. The comic has been ongoing since 1998, and has a fairly large fanbase. PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo, started in 2004 in Seattle and has since added a second show in Boston. The show was created by Krahulik and Holkins so that there would be a show that showcased console, PC and tabletop gaming. The exhibit hall was primarily to demo games for both PC and consoles, show off the latest tech for PC builders and featured many gaming retailers. There was an entire hall dedicated for table top gaming, including games like Settlers of Catan, Zombie Dice, Magic: the Gathering and D&D sessions. There were also freeplay rooms for people to play with current consoles, as well as retro consoles (TMNT: Turtles in Time on SNES is still awesome!). Basically, if you could play it, it was there. Surrounding the gaming and the buying were some panels, exhibits and a generally great sense of camaraderie and friendship. And the Omegathon.
Final Omegathon Round: IKARUGA! Courtesy of Ian Levenstein
The Omegathon is an event that takes place throughout the PAX weekend. PAX attendees are randomly chosen before the show begins to compete in a series of diverse games. In this year’s iteration, the games were: Katamari, Bananagrams, Jenga, Operation and Ikaruga. That may sound pretty standard, but Ikaruga is one of the hardest games I’ve ever experienced (I owned a Dreamcast once) and the Jenga was no typical Jenga. The madmen behind Omegathon decided to cut up 2 x 4’s into massive, foot long Jenga blocks and force the competitors to play a scaled-up version of a seemingly innocent game. The heart-pounding, titanic contest had me riveted… and it wasn’t even the final competition! The only thing I can say that matched the epic level of this game was the overall friendliness of the entire convention.
There was a really welcoming and friendly atmosphere at PAX, and I’ve come to realize that geek conventions, and geeks in general, are some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered, and that goes beyond specific fandoms like games or comics. Why does a comic book nut like me go to a gaming con? Because geeks and nerds have mostly been compartmentalized or categorized strictly by one of their interests, and I think that’s unfair. I rhetorically asked what comics have to do with video games and table top gaming, but the convention is based around two guys who did a webcomic about games! I like to think that all of us are well-rounded people, so our geekery/nerdity can be well rounded as well. Before I became a comic book collector, I was logging long hours on my SNES and PS1 (I’m suddenly feeling old…) and I was still in the loop on some of the killer AAA games despite my massive comic book habit. It’s silly to think that interests don’t cross-pollenate.
That’s how we’ve invaded the pop culture. There are big football players who spend their careers pounding on each other but also are pounding controllers trying to beat an 8 year old kid at Halo: Reach, and I think that’s terrific. By being diverse in our geekery, we allow others to embrace one aspect, if not all. Geek philosophy aside, PAX is a terrific show, and I suggest if you like gaming in any form, to go to whichever’s more convenient. PAX Prime is in Seattle, usually at the end of summer. I’m definitely reserving a room for next year’s PAX East, and I’ll be sure to have a new Magic deck constructed by then!